Saturday, September 29, 2012

Marking time

Sitting here it occurred to me to check where I was with regard to Twinkle at this time last year. A year ago right now, I was aware she wasn't feeling well, but I was still a few days away from being aware of the extent of it. I'll never know how long she'd actually been sick at that point. What I can say is that most of a decade of fairly uninterrupted happiness with my various cats had drawn to a close.

Anyway. I just mention that as a milestone. My real intention this afternoon had to be nicely update you on the progress on the 16th Avenue bridge. I was out with Michelle this afternoon... she's lost over 40 pounds so far and she looks terrific... genuinely younger. She'd also just gotten her hair done. She was a real prize. We got caught up at The Khan in Don Mills, and from there, I headed out to photograph the bridge. Half an hour's drive later, I arrive there to see a half dozen workers still busy on what appears to be a finished span. There was no point in getting out of the car; I wasn't just free to wander around. I got a couple of shots from the window. I'm considering going back out tomorrow to see if I can do any better. In the meantime, well, here's what I was able to snag.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wow, already?

A flier from last week, snagged at a watering hole I and some of my friends favour called The Goose.

I'm intrigued by the mention of "Irish Car Bombs". I expect it's a drink of some kind, albeit one with a somewhat insensitive name. :) And while admitting I've been on the wagon for going on two years now, I can't say I consider $6 for a pint much of a bargain or incentive to pound 'em back, even "tax included".

Still... funny enough. :)

P.S. Oh, and guys... it's "Paddy", not "Patty". That'd be his sister.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Due to be stacked in the bathroom soon :)

In my local wanderings over the years I’ve tended to focus on roads and bridges that used to be part of the public space and no longer are... no longer are part of the public space, or no longer are, period. I’ve long been fascinated with the long-lost pony truss one-laner that used to carry Lawrence Avenue traffic across the East Don. That it persisted for around a decade after the Don Mills development sprawled half a mile west of it fascinates me and I wish I knew what that was like for the people who moved in there. In any event, it was superseded by the current six-lane span at the time the Don Valley Parkway pushed north to devour the right-of-way of Woodbine Avenue, and the little bridge itself must have been removed at that time. Why the city didn’t simply leave it I can’t say; perhaps because it had a wooden deck it was assumed it would quickly become a hazard to incidental hikers.

Anyway, it’s brought me to picking up a few books on Amazon. Charles Sauriol was a longtime explorer and lover of the Don valley who wrote a number of books about its uses and history, both personal and anecdotal. He passed away relatively recently, as I recall; last ten years or so. A big chunk of the Don parklands is now named in his honour. I found a couple of his books available inexpensively on Amazon; these are Tales of the Don and Remembering the Don. Charles Sauriol himself, it seems to me, tended to be focused on the Don valley from pretty much south of what’s now Eglinton Avenue (which didn’t span either the East or West Don until the 1950s), but I find myself interested in seeing what he relates. It’s long overdue; I’ve been meaning to read these books since the man was still alive.

At the same time I also came across a new offering by John Sewell called The Shape of the Suburbs: Understanding Toronto’s Sprawl, published in 2009. John Sewell was a one-term mayor of Toronto in the 1970s; formed in the mold of longtime Toronto resident Jane Jacobs. As such, his attitudes are, to me, somewhat parochial and outdated. For example, I recall him suggesting, when Toronto was being amalgamated into the so-called “megacity” at the end of the 90s, that not only should we be keeping the six cities that formerly comprised Metro, but that we ought to be breaking them up into smaller units, in fact, which struck me as bordering on insane. Nevertheless I bought another of his books in the mid-90s, The Shape of the City, and enjoyed it immensely for its subject matter and the breadth and depth of the research. Given that he largely avoided interjecting with his own views, but pretty much just laid out the story, I didn’t find it as egregious as otherwise might have. That said, my own views on such matters have mellowed over the years into something more of a grey area.

This new book is reputedly about the expansion of Toronto into the near suburbs (those that were in Metro and now form the outer parts of Toronto proper, like the part where I live), and those newer suburbs beyond, in the regional municipalities that form the nominal Greater Toronto Area... the decision-making processes that created them, the infrastructure challenges they represented, the highway systems they necessitated, and so on. Since I live here, there are matters of considerable interest to me and I’m looking forward to reading this companion to The Shape of the City, as well as my copy of The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs, written during her tenure as David to Robert Moses’s Goliath in New York before she moved here at the end of the 60s.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Max's rose

Good-bye, Max's rose...

I've had a rose plant on my dresser since sometime last spring. Periodically it brings forth a bud or two. The last was in mid-August. It was coming to my attention while I was tending to Max, when I hoped he only had a bad infection. It fully bloomed the morning of the day I had to take him in to put him to sleep. I remember thinking of it, sadly, before I even had to face that inevitability, as that the rose was blooming to mark his passing. Now, I know that's foolish. Nevertheless, it's our lot as humans to make associations that aren't there.

About a week ago, it had faded and dried on the plant. Some time earlier this year a friend advised me that one had to cut them off for something else to grow. So, hard as it was, I did. I looked at it for a moment and put it in the waste paper basket. About ten minutes ago, I dumped the basket. Again, I regarded the rose. It was hard to throw it out a second time. I even pressed my lips to it. But it was gone, and I had to let it go. Max's rose.

I guess there's a lesson there. An analogy. It still kind of sucks, though.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Feline retrospectives

Looking back at the blog for reference, I can see that we're coming up on a year now since the last week I would have considered everything normal with the three cats I moved into my new place with. Twinkle was probably already sick by this time last year, but she wasn't showing it yet; or if she was, I wasn't picking up on it.

I've been mulling it over lately as to why Twinkle's death was so much harder than Max's, at least on me. I mean, even with Twinkle, I didn't really come apart. I don't think I ever really cried; I got misty a few times but it never overwhelmed me. Still, it was rough, and strangely, even though Max isn't even gone a month yet, I still find her passing somehow harder to take. I had Max nearly ten years; he was a prince, and he's only been gone about three weeks. Twinkle I had a year and a half; she was no prize, and she's gone nearly a year. You'd think my feelings would be reversed.

I guess it has to do with conjunctions of the natures of their passing, their characters, and their lives.

Both of them were given up at some point. Max, formerly "Morris", was given up at about the age of two. I don't think he was in the shelters long when I got him. He was easygoing, really liked human beings, hardly ever got mad, and was really enthusiastic about life. Even when he had cancer, I didn't know a thing till it got rough for him to eat. All the time he was chipper, seemed comfortable enough, got around, hopped up on things, was affectionate, pretty much up to the day he died. Pretty much the only reason I took him in to be euthanized was that he was very clearly experiencing bouts of real pain he couldn't hide anymore, and that was quickly overshadowing the enjoyment he was getting out of being alive. But he was only briefly homeless, he had ten good years with me, and he was fairly sound right up to the end.

Twinkle was a whole other ball of wax. The records show she was in the shelter for a while before we picked her up. She had a history of investigations into her urinary tract, and I suspect she was a troubled cat who lost more than one home. She absolutely ruined my futon and a number of smaller, soft items while I had her, though she largely settled down before I moved. She wasn't all that cuddly; she was affectionate strictly on her own terms and schedule, and she had no issues with putting me in my place if she felt the need. But if there was ever a cat who needed someone like me, it was Twinkle. I had some pretty dark thoughts sometimes about her little habits, but I never gave up on her. She would have had a good home for a long time, if only.

I thought she didn't even know her name. I think the only indication I ever had otherwise was when she was sick and took to hiding, and I roamed around calling for her. She finally meowed to me from the wardrobe I have in the dining room. Up on the shelf above is where her ashes are now, along with Max's, Jenny's, and some of my friend Jody's.

Max got to live out his last few weeks at home. He was probably in pain a lot of the time, but not so much that he showed it, or it really kept him from enjoying his life, such as it was. Twinkle, on the other hand, spent most of her last two weeks in a hospital, away from home, feeling abandoned again, I'm sure, except for my visits. She was sick, she had no energy or strength, no appetite, she was full of tubes and was constantly being injected or having blood drawn or infused. She went through hell; that poor little thing went through hell. And for nothing, as it turned out. But we sure tried for her. And she endured it.

Max died looking calmly into my eyes as his consciousness softly pinched off. Twinkle died thrashing and fighting for breath in a litter box, with me beside her, and there was nothing, nothing, nothing I could do for her. That little thing never, ever got a break in life. She had a few arguably good months among strangers, human and feline, that she eventually got to know and (I hope) trust, before everything was taken away from her in nausea, fear, loneliness, and torment. And that's going to haunt me for the rest of my life.

And that's the way it is.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The sadness of tuna

Lunch time. Today represents the first day I've had tuna since Max died. The old bachelor cupboard's pretty bare at the moment so if I weren't going to actually buy lunch today, it pretty much required the opening of a can of tuna, something I've been avoiding.

There were six cans in the cupboard, the remnants of the ten I bought Tuesday three weeks ago, after Max was given the appetite stimulant the night before and ate most of the two cans of tuna I had left, all in one evening. He and the other cats, mostly him, managed another four of the ten new cans in the handful of days he actually turned out to have left to him. The other six have just sat since them.

Till this morning.

It was  a sad thing, for the first time in pretty much ten years, to open a can of tuna and not have the sound of it, the alluring waft of it, result in the appearance of Max at my feet, with his plaintiff, beseeching "oww... oww... ow..." Being bothered by Max was one of the secret joys of opening a can of tuna. As it turned out, this time Ally showed up, perched on the counter behind me, doing pretty much the same thing. In a way, it was nice consolation; in another way, it made me even sadder. Life goes on. Feels like, somehow, it shouldn't. But it does.

Loved and lost

When I was in high school I dated a girl who was "the one". She was pretty much the first of everything. She was smart, pretty, and intellectually precocious, and the three years between us seemed hardly to matter. As time passed, they really didn't matter at all. In university, I starting making plans in the back of my mind for our life together. It wasn't to be. She moved on. In some ways, I never quite did.

In some ways, neither has my country.

The Globe and Mail is this morning announcing one the sillier ideas I've seen mooted on the pages of a newspaper of record: that some folks are seriously proposing the resurrection of the Avro Arrow. It's hard for me to really frame what this plane means in this country to anyone who's not from here. Over the years its reputation has snowballed into something little short of Excalibur. It was going to be the greatest fighter-interceptor in the world; it could have lifted small manned capsules into suborbital spaceflights; it would have this, it would have that. Maybe. I don't know. What I do know is that the Diefenbaker government scrapped the made-in-Canada program in 1959, destroying all the test planes, the plans, the engines. Prime Minister John Diefenbaker gave natives residing on reservations the vote, fought hyphenated citizenship, and gave the country the Canadian Bill of Rights (a "quasi-constitutional" document not to be confused with the constitutionally-entrenched Charter of Rights and Freedoms), but what he's primarily remembered for is killing the Avro Arrow.

What can I say? A few years ago at the Royal Ontario Museum, there was a travelling display of Canadiana. Among other things I saw with my own eyes, along with one of the original signed copies of the Charter encased in helium, was a preserved landing gear of an Arrow, hidden away during the destruction. And it was a little like seeing Excalibur, and going, wow, it was really real.

There were consequences for this country. The cancellation of the Arrow was the effective death of an independent Canadian aviation industry, at least until Bombardier picked up that fallen standard in recent years. Canadian engineers, designers, and pilots fled to the US for work. A lot of them were instrumental in putting a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s. Many people to this day insist John Diefenbaker sold Canada out to American interests, or even was pressured by the Pentagon to abandon a made-in-Canada defence solution; and, as I say, he's never really been forgiven for it. Sad to say, that's been his legacy. Maybe rightly so.

Now, all that said... to sit here in 2012 and see people seriously suggest building a plane, designed in the late 1950s for use into the 1970s, in the 2010s for use into the 2030s... well, it's one of those comedy face-twitch moments. Yeah, and if I give myself a decent enough comb-over, maybe I can get the girl from high school and we'll start that family we never had. Come on, folks. I know the Arrow was homemade maple fudge ice cream, legalized marijuana, and seven-minute multiple orgasms all rolled into one, but it would have been half way through its service life when I was born. Let's not do this to ourselves all over again. It was what it was, and it never was what it was. It never will be, because it's never going to be 1965 again. I'm all for an aviation industry in Canada that's capable of designing and building a decent fighter-interceptor that suits our needs, mission goals, and our environment—while at the same time, we recognize and purchase good ideas made by other countries as well. Every country should aspire to something like that, I think. But if we're going to do it, let's go back to the drawing board and use what we've learned since 1960. Any technological industry with its focus set backward is a non-starter.

At long last, let's bid a fond, respectful adieu to the Arrow.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Sheppard Avenue Agincourt underpass

This is the other bridge, only very recently at bridge at all, I've been keeping an eye on over the past couple of years. This is, or was, the GO Train level crossing on Sheppard Avenue in Agincourt, between Kennedy Road to the west and Midland Avenue to the east. It's not a part of town I got to with great frequency... the Walmart on the west side of Sheppard and Kennedy, just shy of the crossing, is about as far as I typically go. But since I realized they'd finally be building the underpass, I've been photographing the progress there. This summer it's nearly completion, and in a month or two, I think, the four lanes will be open under the bridge, and all of this will just be a memory.

Funny how some of the dates line up with milestones. June 11, 2011 was just after I took possession, and was in the month-long process of moving home. October 30 was just after Twinkle died. And July 31, just over a month ago, was within a day or two of when I first noticed Max wasn't enthusiastic about breakfast anymore. Yeah, watching this bridge emerge from the ground has been the background hum of a lot of change.

July 10, 2010

December 25, 2010

April 22, 2011

June 11, 2011

October 30, 2011

January 22, 2012

May 6, 2012

July 28, 2012